You've Heard of 'American Idol' - Now Discover San Miguel de Allende's Mexican Opera Idol
Soprano Yamel Domort won the Herman Marcus Memorial Prize in the 2015 Concurso. (San Miguel Opera/Concurso)
Every spring, dozens of young and undiscovered opera singers descend on the pretty colonial Mexican city of San Miguel de Allende to sing their lungs out for the chance to be among the ten finalists in the Concurso, an event dubbed “American Idol for Mexican opera singers.” The competition is the flagship event of Opera San Miguel, a festival held within the Teatro Angela Peralta, a neoclassical jewel box named in honor of the 19th-century soprano known as "the Mexican nightingale."
Similar to the rules of the American reality show, only one singer will claim first place, but all ten finalists are winners. The organization’s mission is to nurture talent, so each finalist receives a prize—from grants (up to 200,000 pesos, or about $14,000) to worldwide performance opportunities. The money is to be used only for furthering the careers of the singers, many of whom come from humble backgrounds.
As an added bonus, the event also provides world-class entertainment for the community, about a fifth of which is expat Americans and Canadians. “A lot of people would not put opera and a competitive sport in the same thought,” says Paul Merriman, one such expat who splits his time between this cobblestoned mountain town and Bainbridge Island, Washington. Though not an opera buff, Merriman considers the event to be “one of the most thrilling experiences of my life.” The excitement of the Grand Finale is compounded by a series of celebratory dinners, where locals get to hobnob with the contestants. “All competitions are more fun when you know something about the competitors,” he adds.
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